I have often wondered how long it takes for a place to feel like home. I’m sure it is different for every person and that it depends largely on the circumstance a person finds himself or herself in. For me, this past month has been the month that I have felt the most at home here in Thailand. No matter what happens from this point on, I know that the people of this country—whether they be big-city people, village people, central Thai, Northern Thai, hill tribe, or expats—will always have a special place in my heart.
My mind has been expanded to think in global terms and to feel empathy for people who are not like me or even geographically close to me. I am certain that the way God is growing me and Liz in this time here in Northern Thailand will have ripple effects into whatever work we do for the rest of our lives. It is an amazing feeling to get more in touch with the heart of the creator—a creator that does not see national borders or ethnic lines, just people made in his image whom he loves.
Here are some of the things going on with Northern Thailand Impact Ministry and our lives this month:
This month, a few people from the staff, including Liz’s mom (Hope Johnson) had the opportunity to take a trip to Australia to network with a church there who has become a partner church.
Another successful coffee house
Okay, so, here’s a confession: when the team went to Australia we forgot that the person who normally announces coffee houses went with them and we forgot to announce the event to our classes. Thus, we had a scarce turnout for our Halloween coffee house. BUT there were some kids that we found playing outside and we told them we had snacks, so they came to our event, so we had the chance to meet some kids in the neighborhood! Next time we’ll do better with the announcement, but it was still fun and we got to meet some new people!
Our trip to Bangkok
This month, Liz had an entire week off from teaching at CRIS, so we took a few days to go down to Bangkok and visit some old friends, as well as see some historic locations (and catch up on playing Pokemon GO [yes, we still play it!]). Even though this was really a time of relaxing and adventure, I found myself learning even more about Thai culture from this trip.
Mourning a legacy
Some of you may have seen my latest update about King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s passing a few weeks ago. The people of Thailand have had much respect for their king for many years (and I believe rightfully so, in my opinion he has been one of the most positive and helpful political leaders in the world for quite a while). I believe that in every sad situation there are also opportunities for good, and we have tried to seize on those this month.
One way we have done that is by showing the people of this country that we are not here to undermine their national identity. There seems to be a common notion among Thai people that to be Thai is to be Buddhist. By that thinking, anyone who is trying to convert people to another religion are, in effect, challenging the Thai national identity. This time has been an opportunity for us as Christians and as a church to put on black, quiet down our worship service, cancel our parties, and show the people of Thailand that we are not here to threaten their Thai-ness—we have a much different agenda.
Additionally, we have tried to use this time as an opportunity to have deeper conversations with people. Since the King’s passing, I have heard an increase in the amount of conversations about the after-life and what gets a person into heaven. These are bitter-sweet moments because they are brought about by suffering but they open doors that could lead to everlasting joy.
Just this week, we as a staff drove up to Doi Mae Salong (a local mountain) to eat lunch together and talk through some of the things that are coming up these next two months. Our calendars will be busy, but we are hopeful that these next two months will be blessed and fruitful. We have at least 1 team from Tuscaloosa, Alabama coming this month and we will be going to do several village events with them as well as some teacher training, and we also have Christmas season coming up next month which is annually a fruitful time for the ministry here.
I say it and write it a lot, but I want to reiterate it again: THANK YOU to those of you who support us while we are here on a foreign mission field. We could not support the work going on here without you.